Donald Trump , the president-elect of the United States, ran a campaign that, among other things, questioned the truth behind climate change, and promised to dismantle the few measures the Obama administration had taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, he famously alleged that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to bring down US manufacturing.
As was, Trump has tapped a well-known climate skeptic, Myron Ebell, to lead the transition team for the EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency. Among his proposals for the 100 first days of his administration, are the dismantling of the meagre environmental protections set up by President Obama.
Trump is now considering ways to quickly pull out from the Paris Agreement. One of the ideas being floated is withdrawing from its parent treaty – the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris Agreement aims to maintain global warming below two degrees – that the Earth could withstand without catastrophic changes to the environment, according to most experts
If we maintain business-as-usual emission levels, we are to an increase of at least 3 degrees average global surface temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels. New research has just revealed that the increase might be even higher, as the climate could become even more greenhouse-sensitive as the planet gets warmer.
The future is ours
We cannot, however, afford to be hopeless. The future of the climate still ultimately depends on what we decide to do about it. We have a vital role to play in holding our leaders to account: continuously, relentlessly, and in any way we can.
In the past 20 years, many in the environmental movement forgot some of the lessons known by earlier generation. The EPA itself was set up during the Nixon administration. It wasn’t because Nixon was a crunchy treehugger. Rather, the environmental movement was far better organised in the 70s than it became in later years. Naomi Klein, in her book This Changes Everything, describes how environmentalism had then evolved from gentle conservationism to direct confrontation, with full use of the judicial system, leading to a wave of environmental victories in the form of legislation.
This changed in the 1980s. Many so-called “Big Green” groups, who had successfully changed the system from within, seemed to absorb 1980s ideology and attempt to cooperate with industry, in the belief that profit could serve the common good. “For the mainstream green movement, confronting the anti-government logic of market triumphalism head-on would have meant exiling themselves to the margin,” writes Klein. Disappointment unavoidably followed from attempting to cooperate with people who were legally bound to their shareholders’ interests.
Again, people have taken to putting their own bodies in-between their land and new pipelines, if they have to. They are donating their time, their talents, and whatever resources they can to defending the only Earth we have. They have refused to comply and cooperate with governments and companies, in a worldwide phenomenon Klein describes as “Blockadia.”
No better example can be seen than in the #NoDAPL movement in Standing Rock, where indigenous communities are taking the lead in blocking the construction an oil pipeline.
Movements do the trick
As Bill McKibben, founder of the environmental group 350, says when people ask him what they can do to help – “By ourselves, there’s not much we can do.” Rather, it’s movements that do the trick. When 10-15% of people decide that enough is enough, they can achieve a great deal.
Many of us have found communities, like DiEM25, where we realise that we are not alone in our concerns.
We have found ways, big and small, in which we can persuade our leaders, our colleagues and our families of the urgency of this problem.
There is really no way of overstating how much business as usual depends on our acquiescence, apathy, compliance, and on our feelings of powerlessness.
The system that keeps global warming going is ultimately comprised of groups of people who, for some reason, believe they can go on as usual. Despite its intricacies and the powerful effects of public relations, that system has several vulnerabilities.
Speak out about your concerns, and you’ll be giving other people space to share theirs, too.
Ask your local municipality what they are doing to transition to clean energy. Offer your talents, whatever they may be, to an environmental organisation. Earmark part of your salary to any organisation working to address climate change. Build broad coalitions, because we really are all in this together.
If you are concerned about climate change – and if you are a human being living on planet Earth, you should be – you have every right to mourn this election. After you have done so, go find other people who are equally as concerned, and press onwards.
To quote the late Leonard Cohen: “There are cracks in everything. That’s how light gets in.”